Ravens Must Avoid Lions' Trap

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The phrase "Any given Sunday…" was fresh in the heads of many across the NFL heading into the weekend, but this week, it might as well be "Any given Thursday…"

That day was when the lackluster Cleveland Browns defeated the defending Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-6, on a nationally-televised NFL Network broadcast.

After the game, quotes came out of the Steelers' locker room that said their playoff hopes were over, as they had dropped to 6-7 and behind a crowded wild card-chasing pack.

The Ravens would do well for their postseason aspirations by avoiding a similar letdown to the lowly Detroit Lions.

Coming off a winless 2008 campaign and a team-wide overhaul, the Lions have floundered through their 2009 season to a 2-10 record, an up-and-down offense and a defense ranked last in the league.

Still, the Ravens know better than to take their opponent lightly. The Browns showed that to the Steelers.

"This is a really good football team we're playing," said Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, who isn't planning on using the Cleveland victory as a motivational tool. "You guys can look at the records all you want, but from week to week we're playing really good players, really good coaches, who are capable of putting together a really good game. It's just a matter of time when a team's going to put [it] together.

"Have we played our best game yet? No. We're reaching and striving for our best game, and so are the Browns, so are the Lions, so is everybody in this league. So, it's going to take our very best game to win this next football game. Our guys already know that, so we don't have to point to any examples, really."

Considering Detroit's current standing, however, this battle has all the making of a trap game, something Baltimore has not yet been bitten by this year.

Aside from a 27-14 trouncing by the Green Bay Packers last Monday night, each one of the Ravens' six losses has come at the hands of division leaders.

Conversely, in two games against the Browns (2-11), Baltimore won by a combined score of 50-3. The Ravens defeated a struggling Kansas City Chiefs squad 38-24, the same team that also beat the Steelers.

That is why the Ravens cannot afford to take this game lightly.

"They are a very athletic, talented team who plays hard, is [going to] play hard, and if you watch the way a couple of [those] guys are playing, they're trying to build something over there," said Ravens running back Ray Rice. "When you're trying to build something, it doesn't happen overnight. That's what their team is. They're an NFL football team. They're going to play hard. They'll stick in the game, and they're going to give us their best shot.

"They have great players on their side, and they're trying to build something. Their record [doesn't] show how good they are. It was the same situation when we played against Cleveland. They have great players on that side of the ball, and we can't overlook anybody."

There are some bright spots for the Lions as they transition into the Jim Schwartz era. Schwartz, a Baltimore native and graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School, is working to establish a winning attitude to a franchise that has been in the cellar for years.

He is doing it with a young base of players.

Defensively, rookie Louis Delmas is emerging as one of the best young safeties in the game. First-overall draft pick Matthew Stafford is demonstrating that he can command an offense at the professional level.

And receiver Calvin Johnson is one of the best in the game. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Johnson is a matchup nightmare for any team, not to mention the Ravens' pair of 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerbacks in Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth.

"He's a great, great receiver," said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. "He's got size, he's got speed. The thing that really impresses me probably the most about him is he goes after every ball as if it's the last one. You see some great, some skilled receivers that will make circus catches, and then the next one they'll drop. This guy's fighting for every one like it's the last rebound."

The Ravens are expecting every Lion to fight for that last ball, and they have to, as well.

There are several teams still in the wild card hunt. The Denver Broncos (8-4) and Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) are currently leading the race, but the Miami Dolphins (6-6), New York Jets (6-6), Tennessee Titans (5-7) and Houston Texans (5-7) are still lingering.

"Around here, it's always been the same thing: We're grinders. If it's going to come, it's going to come late, as it's always been around here," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "We've had a couple of seasons where we started out 4-0 here or there, but the bottom line is every year I've been around here, our best football probably came in the later part of the year.

"Nothing is out of the picture. You look at the whole AFC picture, everything is right there. I just think you've got to go play football and not be worrying about the ups and downs of the season. Once you get caught into that, you lose your energy and passion for the game."

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